May Lynn was a pretty girl from a mean family who dreamed of becoming a film star. Now she's dead - her body dredged up from the Sabine River, bound with wire and weighted down.
Her best friend, Sue Ellen, has a family meaner than May's and a yearning for something greater than she's been given. She thinks the least she can do for her friend is take her ashes to Hollywood, and place them on her favourite actor's grave.
But May Lynn's diary holds a secret: the location of a large sum of money. What seems like a stroke of fortune has disastrous consequences, and Sue Ellen's escape is about to get more complicated than she'd ever imagined.
Edgar-winner Lansdale (Devil Red) channels Mark Twain in this chillingly atmospheric stand-alone set in Depression-era East Texas. When 16-year-old Sue Ellen Wilson finds the body of her friend May Lynn Baxter in the Sabine River, weighed down by a sewing machine, she's appalled that May Lynn's father, "a known hot-head and knife fighter," and uncle would rather ignore the crime than report it. Sue Ellen and her two best friends, Terry Thomas, whom everyone thinks is a sissy, and Jinx Smith, a feisty "colored" girl, soon hatch an elaborate plan: burn May Lynn's body and take her ashes to California, since May Lynn dreamed of Hollywood. When the trio discover money squirreled away by May Lynn's dead bank robber brother, they decide to take it with them on a raft down the Sabine en route to California. Soon they must contend with more than just the current. Lansdale's perfect ear for regional dialogue and ability to create palpable suspense lift this above the pack.